Cardiology

A veterinary cardiologist is a specialized veterinarian with advanced training and expertise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart and vascular diseases. Veterinary cardiologists are also knowledgeable about pulmonary (lung) diseases.

A board certified veterinary cardiologist is a veterinarian who has obtained intensive, additional training in cardiology and has been certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (DACVIM - Cardiology). The advanced training and education required for this certification includes:

  • A veterinary degree (three to four years of undergraduate college, followed by four years of veterinary school).
  • One year rotating internship in veterinary medicine and surgery.
  • Three years of advanced cardiology training (residency), including extensive training in a variety of diagnostic imaging techniques (radiology, echocardiography and angiography) and interventional cardiac procedures.
  • A series of rigorous examinations covering all aspects of general internal medicine and veterinary cardiology.

Philosophy:

When your pet needs the care of a veterinary cardiologist, years of intensive training and education will be focused on helping your pet to enjoy the best quality of life possible. Most heart diseases are manageable, but not curable, and they require chronic therapy. Successful management frequently involves re-evaluation by your family veterinarian and a board-certified cardiologist. With appropriate diagnostics, care and follow-up, we will help your pet live a longer, happier and healthier life.

What is an emergency/specialty hospital and how is it different than my primary veterinarian?

A specialty hospital does not offer any routine or preventative care. Our veterinarians have advanced training in specific disciplines such as surgery, oncology, internal medicine, emergency and critical care medicine, physical rehabilitation and neurology among others. We also have equipment that most primary veterinarians don’t have such as CT scans, MRI, endoscopic equipment, and specialized surgical tools.  We work closely with your primary veterinarian to offer these services to you.

What diagnostics/procedures are offered?

Chest X-Rays: These images are obtained to assess your pet’s heart and lungs. They also provide information that can help determine whether or not your pet is suffering from congestive heart failure.

6-Lead Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test records the electrical activity of the heart and reveals whether heartbeats are normal or abnormal. An ECG charts a recognizable pattern of the heart’s activity. Each point on the tracing depicts how well each specific part of the heart is performing. An ECG can provide valuable information about a suspected arrhythmia.

Cardiac Ultrasound (Echocardiogram): Echocardiography allows visual examination of the interior of the heart, its valves and its surrounding structures via ultrasonography. It is a sophisticated diagnostic tool, which, when combined with other components of a complete cardiac workup (history, physical examination, cardiac and pulmonary auscultation, ECG, x-rays and other pertinent tests), can provide a complete diagnostic picture of your pet’s illness and help outline a course of treatment.

Doppler Echocardiography: An advanced form of ultrasonography, this sophisticated technology can enhance the diagnostic information gained from standard two-dimensional ultrasound. Sound waves are bounced off moving red blood cells to determine the movement and force of blood flow within the heart. There are three types of Doppler ultrasound: continuous wave, pulsed wave and color flow. Each type is helpful in diagnosing or assessing the severity of different types of heart problems.

Holter Monitor (ambulatory ECG monitoring): A Holter monitor is a portable ECG device worn by a pet which will continuously record heart rate and rhythm (for up to 24 hours). Its extended recording period is useful for detecting heart rhythm disturbances (called arrhythmias), which would be difficult to identify in the shorter period of time measured by a standard ECG. This information is used with other testing to determine the nature and severity of your pet’s heart disease and to create the best treatment plan for arrhythmias.

Pericardiocentesis: Pericardiocentesis is performed when there is fluid accumulation between the heart and the sac that surrounds the heart (the pericardium). Performance of an echocardiogram prior to pericardiocentesis is often critical in cases of pericardial effusion. Pericardial fluid highlights soft tissue masses facilitating the diagnosis of neoplasia. This is often performed in emergent situations by our emergency clinicians.

Blood Pressure Monitoring: Arterial pressure is measured routinely in many patients, especially those with other medical conditions known to be associated with high blood pressure (kidney disease, thyroid or adrenal gland disease, etc.) and in patients where high blood pressure may be suspected from an echocardiogram. The technique involves an inflatable cuff placed around a limb and a monitor to detect flow in the artery within the cuff.

Oxygen Therapy:  Oxygen supplementation can be delivered to your pet when indicated via flow by, intranasal, or environmentally controlled oxygen cage.  Delivering a higher percentage of oxygen to the lungs can help maximize oxygen delivery to tissue in cases of respiratory or cardiac dysfunction.

What should I expect during my visit?

If you are a new client to CVRC, we encourage you to fill out our New Patient Registration Form ahead of time online, or bring the form with you. Otherwise, please arrive to your appointment approximately 10 minutes early to complete this form in our office.

Cardiology consultation usually begins with your family veterinarian diagnosing a disease or condition of the heart, lungs, or their vasculature. The majority of animals with cardiac disease can be completely evaluated using non-invasive examination methods. Cardiology consultation begins with a full history and complete physical examination. Once in the exam room, a blood pressure reading may be performed by the veterinary nurse. Then, the cardiologist will perform a focused cardiac examination on your pet. After the examination and discussion, an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) will likely be done on your pet. The echocardiogram is non-painful and takes from 15-25 minutes in most cases. Sometimes further tests and procedures such as ECG, radiographs, or blood work may be recommended.

The doctor will explain the results of the echocardiogram and other tests after they are completed and answer any questions you may have. We will also communicate with your primary veterinarian during this process to ensure a collaborative treatment plan for the care of your pet. You will be given a printed visit summary with the diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and follow up care. A full report will be sent to your family veterinarian the same day. We welcome your progress reports, questions and concerns any time and will maintain an ongoing relationship with your primary care doctor to ensure the best experience for you and the best care for your pet.

What should I bring to my visit?

First and most importantly, bring your pet to all visits. Follow your normal routine for medications and feeding the day of your visit, unless you have been instructed otherwise by our staff. Also, please bring a list of all medications, strengths and dosages, or the pill vials. Records can be faxed or emailed to us from your primary care veterinarian prior to the appointment. If your pet has had any x-rays taken recently, please bring those with you as well. We can request records and digital x-rays on your behalf from your family veterinarian once you have scheduled a visit with us.

How much does it cost for a consultation with the cardiologist?

Our specialist consultation fee is $105.  After an assessment by our specialist, you will be provided with a detailed medical treatment plan, including all costs recommended and anticipated.  You and the specialist will review this and determine the best course of action for you and your pet.

What is echocardiography?

Echocardiography is a type of ultrasound that uses special probes and software, as well as requiring advanced training, to perform real time imaging of the heart and surrounding structures. At CVRC, echocardiograms are performed by our board certified specialists, who have undergone extensive education and training in echocardiography to aid diagnosis and treatment of all cardiac-related diseases.

How is echocardiography performed?

After being thoroughly examined by one of our doctors, your pet is positioned appropriately on the echocardiography examination table. For most patients, sedation or anesthesia is not required. The area of interest is clipped to allow the probe to make contact with the skin. The study is performed and interpreted by one of our trained clinicians. The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes to perform.  Echocardiography is painless and noninvasive. 

What is echocardiography used for?

Echocardiography is used to diagnose the following conditions:

Pericardial effusions

Dilated cardiomyopathy

Mitral regurgitation

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Pulmonary stenosis

Ventricular septal defects

AV valve dysplasia

Patent ductus arteriousus

Developmental defects

Pulmonary hypertension

Heartworm disease

Heart based masses

Advanced feline restrictive cardiomyopathy

Right to left shunts

Atrial septal defects

AV valve stenoses

Coronary artery defects

Occult dilated cardiomyopathy

Cor triatriatum

Persistent left cranial vena cava

Canine hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Feline diastolic dysfunction

Do I need a referral?

While referrals are recommended to see one of our specialists, they are not required. It is always better to speak to your veterinarian about a referral so we can collaborate with your veterinarian to ensure the best care for your pet.

Will you keep my family veterinarian informed of the care my pet receives at CVRC?

We work closely with your primary veterinarian and ensure they receive copies of all medical records. We also communicate via phone and they have the ability to access a portal into our medical record system.